This article was written by Tom Jozwik
This article was published in the 1981 Baseball Research Journal
Calamitous. Catastrophic. Disastrous. None of these adjectives would look the least bit out of place alongside the noun “hurricane.” And yet, a hurricane proved helpful for the 1957 Milwaukee Braves.
With Bob “Hurricane” Hazie on the team, the Braves swept the National League pennant and even won the World Series. This was the only Series triumph ever registered by a Milwaukee major league team.
Hazle, whose nickname came from the devastating hurricane Hazel of four years before, wasn’t exactly a one-man show. The 1957 Braves roster bore the names of several baseball immortals such as Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, and several near-greats like Red Schoendienst, Lew Burdette, and Del Crandall. All of these stars performed quite capably for the championship team, as did starting pitcher Bob Buhl, relief hurler Don McMahon, shortstop Johnny Logan and left fielder Wes Covington. But Robert Sidney Hazle’s contribution was considerable, and for one month down the stretch, he was the most capable Brave of all.
Hazle, a 26-year-old outfielder, was summoned from Wichita in late July to fill in for the injured Billy Bruton. He was hitting only .279 for Wichita and his only claim to fame up to that point was in leading the Southern Association in home runs with 29 in 1955. The Reds had used him in six games at the end of that season and he batted only .231. The Braves were not expecting great things from the South Carolina native, but they needed outfield support for Aaron, Covington, and the aging Andy Pafko while Bruton was out. What they got was a whirlwind who battered National League pitching for a .403 batting average and a slugging mark of .649.
Milwaukee possessed a precarious 1/2 game lead on July 31, 1957, when Hazie, after one prior pinch-hitting chore, went to right field. The team’s won-lost record was 59-41 with a winning percentage of .590. Once Hazle had cracked the starting lineup, the Braves went 33-21 with a .611 percentage. They won the pennant handily, ending up eight games ahead of the second place St. Louis Cardinals. Of the 41 games in which Hazle participated, including one as a pinch hitter and one as a pinch runner, the Braves played at a .745 clip.
Hazle made his first appearance on July 29 as a pinch hitter for pitcher Dave Jolly. He was credited with a sacrifice. It was an inauspicious beginning for a great month (July 29-August 28) wherein Hazle would collect 34 hits in 67 at bats for a .507 average. It was a month wherein Hazle would knock in 21 runs and score16, and the Braves would win 20 of 27 games.
Statistics on “Hurricane’s” magnificent month appear at the end of this article. The stats show that Hazle’s most potent performance was in the August 25 game against the Phillies. A headline in the next day’s edition of The Milwaukee Journal read, “Hazle Drives in Six Runs/as Braves Beat Phils, 7-3.” The accompanying article, written by Journalsportswriter Bob Wolf, began as follows:
“For almost a month now, storm warnings have been going up around the National League about Hurricane Hazle (sic). Sunday, it struck the Philadelphia Phillies.
“Hazle . . . did everything but sweep the poor Phillies out of Connie Mack Stadium. He hit two three-run homers, added a single and a walk and was a one man wave of destruction as the touring Braves continued pennantward . .”
Wolf went on to observe that Hazle could afford to “go hitless the next 43 times and still be a .300 hitter.” While Hazle didn’t go 0 for 43, he did experience a comparatively dry September.
After getting the collar in four August 30 plate attempts, the southpaw swinger went 20 for 63 in the season’s final month. This figures out to .317 and that’s a good batting average – if it’s not contrasted with, say, the .500-plus mark registered by Hazle in his first several weeks with Milwaukee.
Red hot or not, Hazle was able to give Braves’ fans a few things to cheer about in the final weeks of the 1957 campaign. On September 2, in the opening game of a doubleheader at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, he doubled three times, singled once and batted in a pair of runs as the Braves set club records for runs and hits (26) and trounced the Cubs, 23-10. “Hurricane” homered against the same Cubs in Milwaukee four days later, the shot looming large in the Braves’ 5-4 victory. Back in the Windy City, on September 22, Hazle beat the Cubbies with a 10th inning roundtripper. This game-winning blast brought the Braves to within a game of the pennant; they captured the flag by defeating the Cardinals the following evening.
Hazle sat out the pennant-clinching contest and he did little (.154) against the New York Yankees in the ensuing World Series. After hitting .179 in 20 games for the 1958 Braves, he was dealt to the Detroit Tigers. After 43 more games, his big league career was over; but he could always take delight in the memory of one phenomenal month and another better than average one for the 1957 Braves and in the knowledge that the team had reached its apex when Bob “Hurricane” Hazle took part.
“Hurricane” Hazle’s Torrid Month
|7/29||New York||Won 9-8 (PH)||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|8/9||St. Louis (R)||Won 13-2||5||2||4||0||1||2|
|8/10||St. Louis(R)||Won 9-0||4||2||3||1||0||3|
|8/11||St. Louis (R)||Won 5-1||3||0||0||0||0||0|
|8/13||Cincinnati (R)||Won 12-4||2||0||1||0||0||1|
|8/14||Cincinnati (R)||Won 13-3||4||2||3||1||0||1|
|8/15||Cincinnati (R)||Won 8-1||4||1||3||0||1||1|
|8/16||St. Louis||Lost 6-2||3||0||2||0||0||0|
|8/17||St. Louis||Won 5-0||4||0||0||0||0||0|
|8/18||St. Louis||Lost 8-6||4||2||2||0||1||3|
|8/20||Pittsburgh (R)||Won 3-1||4||1||1||0||0||0|
|8/22||Brooklyn (R)||Won 6-1||4||1||3||1||0||0|
|8/23||Brooklyn (R)||Lost 3-2 (PR-RF)||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|8/24||Brooklyn (R)||Won 13-7||2||2||1||0||0||1|
|8/25||Philadel. (R)||Won 7-3||3||2||3||0||2||6|
|8/26||Philadel. (R)||Lost 4-3||4||0||2||1||0||0|
|8/27||New York (R)||Won 4-3||4||0||1||0||0||0|
|8/28||New York (R)||Lost 12-6||2||0||1||0||0||1|
|® denotes road game.||*Hazle hit no triples||67||16||34||7||5||21|